Archive for April, 2011


April 22nd, 2011 - admin

After struggling to retain its top four status during recent years, Berlin International Film Festival went some way to re-establishing itself during 2011.  Amongst the critically acclaimed films on view was the World premiere of the latest documentary from German auteur, Wim Wenders, screened out of competition.  But this is Wenders with a new toy, not quite as we have seen him before, using 3D to explore the innovative dance choreography of Pina Bausch.


We see women stoop and twist, contorting and arching their bodies, wearing thin almost transparent dresses that they inelegantly raise periodically in an abrupt desexualised gesture.  Exhilarated one moment, frantic the next, they anxiously hand around a red dress in a Russian roulette version of pass the parcel, all under the watchful eye of their leader, a misogynistic alpha male choosing his sacrifice.  This is Bausch’s take on the dance of death from Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring, full of primary instincts and raw emotion.


The film crew’s equipment gets close, we hear the dancers catching their breath, we see the absolute terror in the women’s eyes.  Distorted faces, dramatic gestures, this is a throw back to the late silent era of F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang and other German Expressionists but the technology is state of the art, the contrast is astounding.


We switch to Bausch’s Cafe Muller, first performed over 30 years ago.  The red hot agitation of the sacrifice gives way to a pale and stark room where all is ambiguous and bleak.  The sense of ritual remains but now it is the redundant rituals of life, sometimes obsessive, sometimes impulsive.  Probably inspired by Bausch’s observations of customers in her own parents’ cafe, we sense that the characters here have lost their purpose and, in truth, lost hope.  A man repeatedly drops his lover, another frantically shoves tables and chairs aside apparently to clear a path for a drowsy, possibly somnolent, woman wandering around aimlessly.  All is unsettling, slightly beyond our grasp but strangely familiar.


The stage remains bare for Kontakthof, the setting for an old style village dance.  We return to facial gestures but of a very different kind from those seen in the Rites of Spring.  The characters move towards the camera, a substitute for the audience, and expose their teeth.  All seems very satirical at first but things change as their behaviour becomes increasingly phobic; these are actions that reveal inner quirks and fears usually concealed by social decorum but exposed here on a collective scale that is superficially surreal but actually horribly real.


And there is Vollmond (Full Moon) the most abstract of the four featured pieces.  Talking heads of a kind appear from time to time throughout the film where voice overs from Bausch’s dancers play across their silent seated images.  They struggle to find the words to describe her working methods; Bausch herself would do no more than throw in the odd hint here and there for an instruction.  A picture emerges of Bausch as a true Modernist where dance, like abstract art, free form poetry, finds its own language, an independent language that becomes a means to an end in itself, a means that can discover a true expression of the internal, the soul.  In Bausch’s hands, the images of the moon, changing tides and nature completing its cycles within the hypnotic Vollmond are a launching pad for the dancers and the audiences alike to embark upon their own self discovery within the means that the language of dance provides.


Along the way, Wenders removes his camera from the interior sets that the company used for these pieces.  Instead, we see the dancers performing the routines in outside locations scattered around Tanztheater Wuppertal, which houses the company.  The dances now have a new context but, intriguingly, the very ones that partly inspired their existence in the first place.  Watch out for a wonderful scene where Wenders emulates an overhead train by the movement of his camera only and then switches to an interior shot of a carriage where a passenger breaks into a fabulous routine.


Wenders has always had an eye for the crucial in the apparently mundane whether in brilliant asides during his masterpieces of 1970’s German New Wave (Alice in the Cities, Kings of the Road) or stunning observations from a wider cultural perspective in his subsequent work (Paris Texas, Wings of Desire).  Either way, Wenders deals with the true essence of things achieved through a ruthless honestly that made a collaboration with Bausch a perfect match.  Unfortunately, Bausch died at the start of filming but Wenders continued with the project making it a tribute to her work instead.  But this is no ordinary tribute, as Wenders turns his innovative eye to cinema’s latest invention, 3D for a wide audience.  Not only do we sense the physical presence of the dancers in ways that we should normally associate with a live performance, which would be a reasonable expectation in any event, Wenders maximises the 3D possibilities alongside the other considerable stylistic resources at his disposal to combine that physical presence with the manipulation of cinematic space in the creation of a new experience that in turn produces new responses.  Whether we are responding to new meanings or to something that more fully articulates those that Bausch intended is not particularly relevant and nor shall we ever know, but that is not the point.  The point here is that Wenders has created something new and vital rather than simply copying a work from a different medium with the unavoidable dilution.  It is interesting, and possibly revealing, that the other filmmaker to have explored 3D beyond its technologies is the other leading light of the German New Wave, Werner Hertzog, whose Cave of Forgotten Dreams is the closest most of us will come to experiencing Chauvet’s magnificent cave art in ways that transcend mere reproduction.


There has been a ‘pack of dogs’ mentality during recent times with the critical assessment of Wenders’ late work.  Conventional wisdom had it that Wenders has markedly fallen away since Buena Vista Social Club over ten years ago, the impact of which lead to his Land of Plenty been barely seen in the UK beyond its belated premiere at the Chichester Film Festival.  Let us be absolutely clear about this united attack; Wenders has continued to work in innovative and relevant ways and he is simply a victim of that strange and annoying trend of filmmakers falling out of fashion for no apparent reason.  It is to be hoped that Pina’s success will lead to a re-appraisal of Wenders’ overlooked work from the last decade.dapoxetine price in pakistangeneric dapoxetineenduro dirt bikes for salebuy inderal onlineinderal generic namegeneric for inderal

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How I Ended This Summer

April 22nd, 2011 - admin

One way or another, the latest feature from Aleksei Popogrebsky, the long awaited follow-up to Roads to Koktebel, which he co-directed with Boris Khlebnikov, comes across as a synecdochical take on Russia in the post Soviet era.  This is not to say that the characters in this two-hander are specific types in the Eisenstein sense.  Nor that Popogrebsky necessarily set out with this kind of political intent.  But the two protagonists here are from opposing sides of the generation divide; one the product of Soviet heroism and the other a displaced Westernised student.  And notwithstanding the intensity of the psychological study, a political reading is not only valid but also inevitable.


Koktebel had two protagonists on the move; an aerodynamics engineer, coming to terms with his wife’s death, crossed the vast Russian landscape to the Black Sea with his young son in tow.  This time around, the location is fixed, a remote meteorological research base at the extremities of Russia in Arctic Chukotka, but key themes remain.  A substitute father-son relationship develops of a very dysfunctional kind as the morose Sergei impatiently barks instructions at the hapless Pavel participating in a work experience/summer job with a difference.  Everything is very routine, very regimented, taking readings and reporting findings on a clapped out radio set, at least that is until Pavel receives some appalling news about Sergei’s family and inexplicably delays passing it on.  What follows is an exemplary display of how to use slow cinema to raise the tension as the instinctive paranoia of youth raises the stakes in a dangerous game of cat and mouse in an environment without an exit, contained by the inhospitable Arctic terrain and patrolling polar bears looking for prey.


Sergei is without hope; fully committed to an ideological system that no longer exists.  The research base is a throwback to an earlier era, where he can fulfil his empty functions but he must be alone, he must not return to the mainland.  Pavel, with his video games and cool hip music, faces an uncertain future, which cannot escape the ghosts of Soviet indoctrination.  The site remains but it is contaminated, a Soviet legacy, a potential time bomb.


The Arctic surroundings are formidable and intimidating but also spectacular and, at times, awe-inspiring, evoking an astonishing range of reactions, all superbly shot by cinematographer, Pavel Kostomarov, who deservedly bagged a Silver Bear at Berlin IFF 2010 for artistic achievement.  Also amongst the Berlin awards were the co-leads, Sergei Puskepalis and Grigory Dobrygin, who shared the best actor accolade for studied performances of opposites that repelled each other without ever completely severing a strange tie.


It is often uncomfortable but always engaging and, ultimately, rewarding.  There is an occasional nod to Tarkovsky but it is very much a film of its time; a present where the past and future collide and only time, a prolonged time, can start to heal but not within the lifetime of Sergei and his generation.  In this sense, the film has similarities with Corneliu Porumboiu’s Police, Adjective as filmmakers reflect on the impact of the Soviet Block from a certain remove.viagra with dapoxetine onlinebuy dapoxetine cheap cialis jelly buy cialis jelly cialis jelly sale generic cialis jelly

Small Act, A

April 15th, 2011 - admin

The ‘small act’ of the film’s title was a donation that a third party made to sponsor the education of a gifted but poverty-stricken Kenyan pupil otherwise destined to leave school without progressing to the secondary stage.


The beneficiary made the most of his unexpected lifeline; having a distinguished academic career in Kenya and securing a coveted place at Harvard en route to becoming a leading lawyer with the United Nations specialising in human rights.


Time stood still in his impoverished village where private sponsorship remained the only means of achieving a secondary education, a hit and miss lottery dependent upon the generosity of strangers.


Looking to mitigate the failure of the State’s educational policy, he undertook his own ‘small act’ and established a trust to fund the schooling of disadvantaged high achievers in the primary national examination.


The beneficiary was Chris Mburu and he named the fund after his sponsor, Hilde Back, whom he had not met and, at that stage, was little more than a name in the public records.


Jennifer Arnold’s remarkable film depicts the very personal journeys of Chris as he sets out to meet his benefactor, and three of the children from his village looking to receive a sponsorship from the trust fund.


Unexpected was Hilde’s backstory who, after her parents became victims of the Holocaust, moved as a child refugee to Sweden where she had remained ever since.


Deeply moving was the maternal relationship that developed between Chris & Hilde.


And of concern was the extreme anxiety that the children experienced in the prolonged wait for the exam results that the heavy weight of family expectations compounded.


An involving and well-balanced documentary that celebrates the importance of small acts of generosity in making a difference whilst retaining a realistic perspective on the serious structural problems in urgent need of redress.


With extensive festival screenings, including at the global Human Rights Watch roadshow, and a selected theatrical release, it is quietly reaching a wider audience in a triumph of content over budget.cialis dapoxetine onlinedapoxetine online purchase in usawalmart cialis pricegeneric cialis tadalafilcost of cialis without insurancecialis cost walmart

Meek’s Cutoff

April 14th, 2011 - admin

Kelly Reichardt sites her outstanding new revisionist film between the cracks of the many irreconcilable contradictions that exist at the heart of the Western genre and lays bare the myths that even today feed the deluded many in pursing that most fraudulent of ideologies, the American Dream.


Every painfully slow turn of each wheel on the ramshackle wagons, stripped of their iconic connotations, seems one movement closer to an inevitable death through an appalling dehydration.  This is the desperate plight for three families who stray from the Oregon Trail en route to the so-called promised land of the West and find themselves lost in an unforgiving arid hell land of unbearable heat.


Bruce Greenwood plays Stephen Meek of the film’s title, a racist guide with psychopathic tendencies, who the families have employed for the journey.  Possessing a supreme knack for spinning a yarn of the kind that has passed into Western legend, he finds himself horribly out of his depth.


Michelle Williams returns from Reichardt’s previous feature, Wendy and Lucy, and provides a masterclass in non-verbal communication playing one of the pioneer wives whose superior perception and steadfast presence keeps Meek at bay.


Powerful positions emerge when they capture a Native American.  A lifeline for Meek, a welcome distraction, he engenders hysteria with his tales of Indian savagery and calls for his execution.  An enigma to the others, he barely recognises their existence with his profound sounding chants and elaborate sign paintings that are beyond our comprehension; like historical artefacts that speak to us from an earlier age but have lost their meaning over time.  They face a Russian roulette judgement; a possible danger but one that knows the terrain and represents their best hope of survival.


One unforgettable scene shows the group in silhouette moving slowly on the horizon with their desperately heavy and despondent gaits.  There is something instantly poignant and very beautiful at one and the same time as filmmaker and cinematographer come together to create something very special.


And there is the extraordinary soundtrack with its diegetic acoustics that convey the sheer drudgery and toil of the journey to nowhere.


There is no Ford style compromise here, a redefining of America’s history in accordance with pre-determined values but a realistic portrayal of the battle with the real enemy, the full force of a terrible nature and the true representation of ‘outsiders’ that the Western genre has reduced to characters of cinematic convenance.generic viagra with dapoxetinebuy dapoxetine usabuy motilium tabletgeneric cialis oral jelly order cialis jelly cialis jelly uk cialis jelly online australia

Oranges and Sunshine

April 1st, 2011 - admin

Every once in a while a story breaks exposing our Nation’s conduct that shocks even the most cynical.  One such story came to light in the 1980’s when child protection officer, Margaret Humphreys, stumbled across a disgraceful episode in our silent history when the British government arranged for approximately 10,000 children in care to be shipped off to Australia between the end of WW2 and 1967.  They ruthlessly elected to make no provision for the children’s future safety and, in an act of extraordinary cruelty, the authorities falsely declared that their parents were dead.  This was a horrible throw back to the punitive deportation of our venal colonial past but worse with many of the children becoming the inevitable victims of sustained systemic sexual and physical abuse of the most extreme kind.  The so-called Christian Brothers meted out the worst treatment at Bindoon, an institution hidden away in the bush which is worthy of the overused idiom ‘hell on earth’.


Once discovered, it might seem reasonable to assume that our Government would, at the very least, provide funds so as to allow the victims to retrace their lost families and discover a stolen past.  Not so, and lightweight Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, the master at evading responsibility, summed up the official position when he came to office during the early 1990’s by declaring that it was “essentially a matter for the authorities” in Australia.  Both countries were culpable, of course, but with neither taking responsibility, it was left to    Margaret Humphreys to find a way.  Jim Loach’s new feature tells this distressing story almost exclusively from Humphreys’ point of view based upon her book Empty Cradles: One Woman’s Fight to Uncover Britain’s Most Shameful Secret, published a year after Major’s betrayal.


Much will be made elsewhere of Loach’s directorial lineage to father Ken but more in the interests of grabbing a soft headline or introduction than making a meaningful point.  In truth, Loach jnr has earned his spurs in TV during the last decade and any influence from the old man is not sufficient to prevent his big screen debut from being very much his own film.


There is no high drama here; this is an understated but very engaging and honest portrayal of Humphreys’ extraordinary resolve, her own personal sacrifices and the gradual peeling away of the victims’ layers of distrust to reveal an emptiness and almost total alienation underneath.  Sometimes, Humphreys’ locates the victim’s parents and other times, it is too late; but her support is always considered and appropriate and, although it is often no more than a modest start, we sense that some kind of healing process is in motion.  Along the way, Humphreys’ receives death threats from the Christian Brothers and encounters officials defending the indefensible and Loach effectively balances the uplifting moments with the putrid smell of corruption so that both linger after the film’s close.


Emily Watson is outstanding as Humphreys superbly blending modest integrity with a dogged determination to expose the facts.  Equally good is David Wenham as an intriguing former Bindoon victim who allows his hostile and quarrelsome character traits to subside slightly in the interests of revealing an even greater truth, bringing Humphreys much closer to the reality of Bindoon than she originally intended.  In effect, Humphreys undergoes her own journey as a counterpoint to the victims’ search for family roots, a necessary final piece of the jigsaw allowing for a complete breakdown of barriers.


Humphreys has now achieved some success with both the British and Australian premiers formally issuing apologies during the last two years; perhaps the trigger for Loach making the film at this time.  Clearly, it is too little too late but this mournful and harrowing film is a timely reminder that when it comes to human rights abuses, we should not overlook those on our own doorstep.generic levitra with dapoxetine